Italy 1943: the 'Stay Put Order'

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by vitellino, Dec 22, 2019.

  1. What a really interesting topic with no doubt each researcher having specialist knowledge of each of the POW camps they are involved with and what happened on the day of the prisoners freedom on that particular camp.

    In respect to mine Plemo PG62/51 in the Val Camonica with variants on some information E &E reports but somewhat in line with I was told by my father after the armistice was declared

    They were on a road with the guards for what purpose is not known

    Cypriot prisoners on borrowed cycles were a head of the column when they returned in haste saying a German patrol was on the same road. They including the guards fled to the mountains on the eastern side of the valley were they were hunted by Germans and Fascists.

    The surrounding people of the valley hid them including the padre of the church and the late Giovanni Vielmi's family as he showed me the large cauldron that the priest fed the prisoners from as a group which I knew of but not the chronological order it took place
    This padre was the organiser of most of the escapes to Switzerland

    In respect to the prisoners who made it to Switzerland which would have been mainly from Italy, The Bern archives , have kindly sent me the following,

    ''In his official report, Carl Ludwig wrote that there were 103’869 military refugees in Switzerland during World War II (page 318); You find his report on our Website. There you find also the official report of the Eidgenössische Kommission für Internierung und Hospitalisierung (EKIH) (see link). The EKIH-report contains all the information on military refugees in Switzerland during World War II.''

    Trust this will be of interest with many thanks to Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern EDI

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  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Thanks for doing a bit more digging and confirming that the MI9 researchers did not discover a "source" for the claim that the directive originated from Montgomery. Of course, it would be useful to know the approximate date when the directive was generated as that might reveal where Montgomery was at the time and what he thought the likely train of future events was going to be. As the original order appears to have conveniently gone missing though, I guess we are left in the dark on that score. Are we sure that Montgomery wasn't simply talking about any prisoners in Sicily for example, as in May - June 1943 that seems to have been the limits of Allied planning.

    I note that in your later comments you do not refer to the possible motivations that Montgomery may have had for giving a directive for which there is in any case no direct evidence. Are those earlier remarks about him anticipating a "short campaign of a matter of weeks" and having a passion "for neatness and order" copied from MI9 history, or are they your opinions?

    Tom Carver [pp.106-109] suggests that it was in fact Crockatt who "instinctively disliked the prospect of mass breakouts" leading to chaos and possible reprisals. He also asserts that it was in fact "Crockatt and his team [who] concluded that Monty would sweep up Italy in a matter of a few days anyway". He also suggests that it was only when the "Stay Put" order proved so controversial that MI9 sought someone else to blame - whether they did that at the time or after he was dead is another matter!

    Nothing is ever simple in this historical research game...



    Attached Files:

  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    At the risk of being repetitive I think we should concentrate on who had the authority to issue the order. Given that the same order was transmitted to both Commonwealth and American POWs there would seem to be only one possible source. Who advised him to give the order and who transmitted it are entirely different (but related) matters
  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    After Montgomery's campaigns against German forces in North Africa and Sicily it is hard to see him thinking a further campaign in Italy would be 'short'.

    What was the pre-Italian surrender assessment of how the Italian people would react? That might have been a factor. having done some new reading it is very clear many Italians detested fascism, the war and the Germans. Others took a different view and some of them commanded POW camps.
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just started reading this thread as I know very little about this subject but am interested to know who you consider to be the one and only possible source - so I understand whats going on :wacko:

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  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    My post #15 as referenced from MI 9 penned by M R D Foot and J M Langley records that the directive was generated by Montgomery and effective to all Allied POWs in Italy. Crockatt had the responsibility for circulating it only.....the decision would be above his authority, but having the connection with the originator,he would be aware of the decision source. However it looks from what I have ascertained that Crookatt has not left any note that would indicate the source of the directive.

    The personality traits of Montgomery as posted were the view of Foot and Langley in their MI 9 and are not an opinion of mine.

    As regards the comments attributed to Crockatt by Tom Carver,I would say this might be a reflection on the traits of subordinates who in turn propagate the comments of their superiors.Anyone who has worked in an organisation will have witnessed this in human behaviour.

    The invasion of Italy.The difficulties and lack of progress to overwhelm the Germans was appreciated in hindsight and was far divorced from the optimism of Montgomery who envisaged a short campaign.The invasion of Italy was to be expected as a follow on from Sicily.It would have been foolhardy to invest in the military might and take casualties in taking Sicily if after the campaign,the Allied forces had merely become an occupational force.As it was,the political upheaval in Italy was recognised at the Quebec Conference as a window of opportunity and advantage was taken of this to invade Italy as the chronological record shows.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
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  7. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    In reply to David fpo, ALL the Italian pows camps were commanded by the Italians up to the Armistice. They were run by the War Ministry and the officers in charge belonged to the Italian Armed forces.

    What are you reading, David, which suggests that many Italians detested Fascism, the war and the Germans? Certainly, they were all cheering in the squares on 10 June 1940 when Mussolini gave his famous speech in Rome when Italy entered the war. The bombing campaigns in the Northern cities and the disastrous campaign in Russia certainly brought about some changes of opinion, but it's my impression (I have been living in Italy for many years) that there was a general acceptance of Fascism until the surrender in North Africa in the spring of '43 and the landings in Sicily in July.

    Tricky Dicky, the problem with the Stay Put order is that there isn't a definitive work on the subject! It seems to have been generally taken for granted until recently that the Stay Put order was a BAD THING (remember 1066 and all that...) and that thousands of Pows should have been let out of the camps immediately on 8 September to make their own way to Switzerland or their own lines in the south. Where they were going to sleep, who was going to feed them, clothe them (many had only summer gear and their boots were already worn out), arm them (yes, the country was occupied by the Germans and there were the newly- constituted Fascists belonging to the republic of Salò just waiting to get their own back on any allied escapers and to hell with the Geneva convention) and so on.

    The best information I have come across regarding this issue is here on the forum,

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  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    He was still thinking in terms of a short campaign in 1944
  9. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Cited in part:
    My reading has only been the books, especially Letts book and the websites referred to here.

    From that limited reading the POW escapees did find sympathy, which appears to be mainly in the countryside and the poorest. That sympathy - possibly the wrong adjective - led to the escapees getting shelter and support. Often in the knowledge when too many knew that some still favoured fascism, the rewards on offer and harsh reprisals could happen.
  10. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    The very best book I have read on the subject of the Italians and the escapers is by Roger Absalom: 'A Strange Alliance: Aspects of Escape and Survival in Italy 1943-45, Olschski 1991). Absalom read a large number of escape and evasion and liberation reports and his book is based on what the men wrote down at the time of their interrogation. Other information has come to light since it was written in 1991 and the Italian version which came out in 2011 has been enlarged to include it. Gordon Lett is referred to on a number of occasions.

    It has been asserted ( I can't at this minute say by whom) that it was Christian charity which led many of the devout to assist the escapers as regards food, lodging etc.despite the risks they were running. Also, those who had sons being held as prisoners by the Allies helped in the hope that someone would be looking after their relatives too.

  11. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Harry, doesn't their book assert it, rather than record it, given the fact that about the only thing everyone agrees upon is that there is no documentary evidence that Montgomery "generated" a directive?

    What evidence is there that Montgomery "envisaged a short campaign" to liberate Italy at the time that MI9 sent the "Stay Put Order" or indeed at any time?

    Well, maybe, but according to the British OH, p.195, during the meetings in Algiers at the end of May 43/beginning of June 43,General Marshall, the US Chief of Staff, 'reminded all that they should not set their hearts on this or that operation until the early results of the invasion of Sicily had been examined'. It wasn't actually until 18 July 1943 that Eisenhower was to recommend to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that in view of the success of Sicily landings and assuming that southern Italy wasn't heavily reinforced by German forces, that the war should be carried to the mainland of Italy.

    Interestingly, again, in his diary notes on 9 July 1943, Montgomery wrote:

    'I consider that we shall require all our resources to capture SICILY, and that the further exploitation on to the mainland - with a view to knocking ITALY out of the war - is definitely unlikely to be possible'.


    Do you have some evidence for that? And, incidentally, what does it have to do with the "Stay Put Order"!


  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Market Garden for starters plus comments pre D day about knocking about in tanks

    and I was answering the point made about him not being a believer in the short campaign.- he believed in it just crap at achieving it.
  13. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Although obviously one could point to plenty of times when Montgomery argued that the war wouldn't be over quickly, for example when laying a bet with Eisenhower in Oct 43 about the possibility of the war ending by the end of 1944, as shown by this document that Sheldrake posted over on Axis History Forum:


    Montgomery's beliefs of early September 1944 in the possibilities of the time are irrelevant for his beliefs of spring 1943, aren't they?


  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    I think that relevant extracts from the Foot and Langley publication MI 9 answers the queries you have made..... as posted below.

    As regards the background to the decision to invade Italy at the Quebec Conference, an interrogation of the in depth minutes of the conference would be the best option if you wish to discount Anthony Cave Brown's narrative.

    Here is a resume of the discussions and the actions that took place at the conference.

    Allies Plot Axis Defeat at 1943 Quadrant Conference (aka Quebec Conference) in the Canadian Capital of Quebec - World War II Day by Day

    Further to that, another resume of the conference refers to the action involving Italy and Corsica.."In the Mediterranean (a theatre on which Churchill was very keen),they resolved to concentrate more force to remove Italy from the alliance of Axis Powers and occupy it along with Corsica"

    There might be some further material available by delving into the transcripts in the US Navy Department Library entitled Conference Transcripts of the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff.

    Conference Transcripts of the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff

    What does Churchill record in any account of these conferences?

    MI 9 Invasion of Italy 001.jpg MI 9 Invasion of Italy 002.jpg
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  15. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Many thanks for posting the links (which I will be following up to try to get to see some of the documents presented to the Quadrant and Trident conferences) and the pages from the MI9 history. If anything, however, they just add to my doubts about the account in the MI9 book.

    The first thing that jumped out from that was the revelation that MI9 sent the "Stay Put" order to both German and Italian camps; which surely makes it likely that this was a decision that would have needed to be discussed at a much higher level than just "Monty on leave"! Once we begin to consider this order not as "the Italian stay put order" but the "German and Italian stay put order" it also makes references to the expected length of the Italian campaign even more bizarre.

    As for this paragraph:


    The combined chiefs of staff certainly hesitated, they debated, they disagreed, they put off making a decision as they couldn't agree, the US members of the CCOS were never very happy at all about being, as they regarded it at the time, being dragged off into irrelevant sideshows, … Not the best piece of historical work that I've ever seen.


    This is all supposition as well isn't it. Even if Montgomery was asked whilst on leave in London in May 43, and recommended that they be told to stay put, there appears to be absolutely no evidence for all of the assertions in this paragraph either. We haven't got a document to show what his doctrine for British POW was, we don't have any evidence to say that he "insisted" on anything, and we already know that he was expecting to invade Sicily in July 1943 but there were no directives ordering him to prepare for an invasion of Italy. He certainly didn't expect the "campaign to be brief" - unless we are talking about the campaign in Sicily - and then he would be about right as that took about 5 weeks. He certainly didn't expect the campaign against Germany to be all over in a matter of weeks.

    All in all, a rather disappointing effort for what is meant to be a semi-official history of MI9.


  16. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    It occurs to me that the best source of information regarding the "Stay Put Order" is in the MI 9 publication which has gone to some length to account for the event.I cannot see M R D Foot and J M Langley being less than thorough in their research into the matter.

    As for Montgomery's personal traits he knew what he wanted for the Italian campaign and initiated them through Crockatt. From what has been recorded,he is the the only source of information relating to the superior's order. (One incidental point is that Montgomery after losing his wife in 1937,never recovered from it and devoted his sole time to his military career and would have been "never on leave".Perhaps he was misunderstood by some but an example of his character is that for some reason, he did not attend his mother's funeral)

    I think your query as expressed in the final paragraph has already been answered by the MI 9 publication.

    The invasion of Italy in the aftermath of the Quebec conference as recorded by Anthony Cave Brown captures the dynamics of the political upheaval in Italy, the taking of the initiative to attain a military gain.Back to Montgomery, he was confident that it would be a short campaign which in hindsight was not so.I am sure that those in the British military leadership had the same confidence as Montgomery....I cannot recall seeing any dissent on that .

    However Mediterranean operations as proposed by WSC were discounted by the Americans as they saw it as a foundation block for British postwar influence. WSC saw it as a means to prevent the Germans from diverting divisions into France and increase defensive measures against an Allied landing there.The US for their part always were in favour of a direct assault into Europe but at Quebec,WSC achieved what he wanted to get the Mediterranean operation as the priority task for the two Allies....the invasion of Italy.

    Searching further for the "Stay Put Order" references has not achieved anything.I thought that File CAB 122 might give some information since it is titled "Correspondence with US authorities on general POW policy" but I feel that this refers to enemy POWs so I have not pursued it further.

    Further to that,I thought that there must be an answer in the Italy Star Association 1943-1945,alas no but they have an information line which might give some

    Incidentally the MI 9 publication is not a semi official history of MI 9,it is an account of "The British secret service that fostered escape and evasion and its American counterpart." It was published in 1979 and the MI 9 files which have survived are from WO 208 and American sources. They were denied access to 250 files,some very large, which were closed until 2010.

    Most interesting is WO 208/3242 which is an account of Crockatt's "Historical Record of MI 9"...325 pages of foolscap typescript.....Crockatt's own notes on what his department did and some reports from his subordinates and from individual escapers that bear on points Crockatt wanted to make.
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  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    There is absolutely no evidence that Montgomery in May/June 11943 thought that any campaign in Italy would be short. I know that is what the MI9 book says, but I'm afraid I don't understand why they came to that conclusion. Perhaps because it deflected the blame away from them? :pipe:

    Well, you must be reading it differently to me, then!

    So, pace the MI9 history, the Combined Chiefs did hesitate then didn't they! As the Combined Chiefs included those Americans who were always in favour of an assault direct into NW Europe. Incidentally, there was quite a long British debate on whether after clearing the North African coast, the next move should be into Sardinia rather than into Sicily (see Alanbrooke diary for 23 Jan 43 for details).

    It looks like MI9 covered their tracks well then. :D

    There are sufficient historical errors in the few pages of the MI9 book that you posted, to lead me to disregard it as a serious historical source.


  18. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member


    I really started something when I opened this thread, didn't I?

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  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Get in touch with the Italy Star Association 1943-1945.They might be able to further extend knowledge on the subject.

    On the other hand the minutes of the Quebec Conference, if presented in detail might give information you wish to have.

    What we do know that the Stand Put Order was raised on 7 June 1943 under P/W 87190...this presumably was from Norman Crockatt.
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  20. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks Harry for getting us back to the known facts. The suppositions are in danger of blinding us to the realities of the situation. Trying to find out who was responsible and why so long after the event won't mitigate the difficult circumstances in which the prisoners found themselves on and after 8 September 1943.

    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
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